Touch the light. Hold the light. The light burns. The light runs away. Hold the light. Lock the light away.
The story opens around Utas, a silk merchant on the road to a nearby town. Along the rainy road, he picks up the mysterious traveler, Erroi, tall and thin and of few words. After a bandit tries to hold him up for his wares, we begin to learn there is mystery surrounding both the traveler, and Utas’ cargo.
Utas is fleeing the City of the Sun, where the darkness, Vatu, keeps the Sun in a box and opens it but once a year. Vatu wants Utas’ daughter, why we do not know, but Utas’ will do anything in his power to keep her safe. But Utas’ daughter, Alaba, is weakening in the darkness.
As Utas continues his travels, others are pulled into the gravity of his situation, until we are left with a varied cast of characters that are struggling to survive in a world where survival means that no one’s soul is left unscathed.
Though the cast of Crowman seems ever-expanding, There are no ‘throwaway’ characters. Everyone serves multiple purposes to bring the story forward.
Mukito became one of my favorites, as we see a transformation in him from beginning to end more than any other character, but each of the main characters had their own time to shine.
The world-building is first rate, Rae crafting a world where the Sun shines only one day of the year down to how the economic system would be affected for different classes and ranges from the epicenter. You can tell there was no stone left unturned as far as research went. It definitely shows that Rae is passionate about this world he’s created, and it’s so easy to get immersed into it.
Should You Read It?:
This story is dark. There is nothing included that seems gratuitous, but there are no holds barred either. So make sure you check the trigger warnings below before you read if you’re concerned.
Some of the truths discussed especially by Erroi and Utas can be like nails to swallow, but it makes the reader think. It’s what I love about Erroi as a character, he’s a mischievous, seemingly erratic character who has a plan that the reader can only guess at, but his truths hit home. That said, I would suggest readers make sure they’re in a good mental place to be pondering such things before tackling such a raw, emotional book.
There are areas of the story that are dream-like and experimental. Along some parts of the journey, the threads never quite weave together tight enough to be certain what is real and what is a fantastical reimagining of events. While I loved the uncertainty personally, if you’re looking for a concrete, straightforward book, this won’t be your cup of tea.
I rated Crowman by David Rae as Torchlight, lighting our way as we plumb the depths of what we will become, do, or return to, in order to protect the things we cherish.
The Trigger Warnings: Mentions or Rape, Attempted Rape, Torture